• Ted Bertrand

    Dr. Bertrand’s research interests have focused on understanding cell fate and development in the immune system, cancers and fat depots. His laboratory is currently investigating how Notch-signaling participates in aspects of adipocyte development and fate depot regulation during weight loss and regain.

    Dr. Bertrand is a member of the UAB Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC), Comprehensive Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, Bone and Autoimmunity Center (CAMBAC), and the Program for Immunology. He is also a UAB Faculty Fellow in Undergraduate Research, and a Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation (CIPES) Scholar.

    Pi-Ling Chang

    Dr. Chang’s research focuses on two major areas related to skin. Project 1 evaluates the therapeutic efficacy and mechanism of action of novel rexinoids, RXR agonists, developed at UAB for the treatment of cutaneous T-cell lymphomas (CTCLs). CTCLs are a group of non-Hodgkin lymphomas characterized by the infiltration and accumulation of neoplastic T cells in the skin. Project 2 elucidates the regulation, function, and mechanism of action of a matricellular protein, osteopontin (OPN), in normal and pathological conditions. In the latter, Dr. Chang focuses specifically on skin tumorigenesis.

    Wendy Demark-Wahnefried

    Dr. Demark-Wahnefried’s research interests include diet/hormonal and genetic interactions and their association with neoplasia (specifically breast and prostate cancer); dietary intervention to prevent chronic disease factors affecting compliance and recidivism; and lifestyle modification among cancer survivors. Her research career has spanned basic science studies focused on determining mechanisms of action of food-related components on neoplastic progression to clinical research that involves nutrition-related concerns of cancer patients, as well as determining effective lifestyle interventions that improve the overall health of cancer survivors and their families. Her laboratory has conducted some of the largest studies exploring metabolic and body composition changes in response to cancer treatment. She has led and continues to lead a number of NIH-funded trials aimed at improving the diet and exercise behavior of cancer survivors.

    Barbara Gower

    Dr. Gower’s research focus is on the interplay between diet, endocrinology, and metabolism and their relation to chronic metabolic disease, with expertise in evaluation of body composition, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and beta-cell function. Her two major research areas are nutrition interventions for obesity and metabolic health and risk for type 2 diabetes in African-Americans. She currently is conducting two NIH-funded research studies to test the hypotheses that 1) in patients with type 2 diabetes, a low glycemic diet will enable return of beta-cell function by depleting pancreas lipid, even in the absence of weight loss, and 2) in obese African-American women, an insulin-lowering diet will improve loss of fat mass during weight loss and result in greater weight-loss maintenance, in part by increasing energy expenditure. A recently completed study examined the effect of ketogenic diet on metabolic outcomes in women with ovarian cancer.

    Lyse Norian

    Immune-based therapies have shown tremendous clinical potential for treating advanced cancers, but their clinical efficacy remains limited. Because obesity is a risk factor for increased cancer prevalence and mortality, it is critical to understand how obesity impacts anti-tumor immunity and immunotherapeutic efficacy. A major research focus in the Norian lab is investigating how immune responses to solid tumors are altered by obesity. Dr. Norian’s group has found that in mice and humans with renal tumors, obesity impairs protective anti-tumor immunity and decreases immunotherapeutic efficacy. As a complementary approach, they are determining whether dietary interventions can improve therapy-induced immune responses in multiple pre-clinical cancer models.

    Chandrika Piyathilake

    Combination antiretroviral treatment has dramatically prolonged the survival of individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A consequence of this trend has been an increase in the risk of cancers caused by human papillomaviruses (HPVs). Dr. Piyathilake’s current research is focused on an identification those at high risk for developing such cancers based on next generation sequencing of HPVs/biomarkers of HPV carcinogenesis and understanding mechanistically related modifiable factors (examples, dietary factors and microbiome) and the development of tailored HPV vaccines/probiotics. This personalized medicine approach is essential to control and prevent these cancers in this aging population.

  • W. Timothy Garvey

    Dr. Garvey’s research focus is on the metabolic, molecular, and genetic pathogenesis of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. His studies have involved the cellular and molecular biology of cell and animal models, metabolic investigations of human subjects on metabolic research wards, and the genetic basis of diseases in Gullah-speaking African Americans and other national cohorts of diabetes patients. The Garvey laboratory has made important observations regarding the pathogenesis of human insulin resistance and has been a principle contributor to our understanding of the role of the glucose transport system and glucose transporter proteins in human insulin resistance. He has identified gene families that contribute to insulin resistance in human muscle insulin using cDNA microarray, e.g., NR4A orphan nuclear receptors and the tribbles gene family, and has elucidated the role of adiponectin in cardiometabolic disease and mitochondrial proteomics to better define mitochondrial defects that impair substrate oxidation.

    Barbara Gower

    Dr. Gower’s research focus is on the interplay between diet, endocrinology, and metabolism and their relation to chronic metabolic disease, with expertise in evaluation of body composition, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and beta-cell function. Her two major research areas are nutrition interventions for obesity and metabolic health and risk for type 2 diabetes in African-Americans. She currently is conducting two NIH-funded research studies to test the hypotheses that 1) in patients with type 2 diabetes, a low glycemic diet will enable return of beta-cell function by depleting pancreas lipid, even in the absence of weight loss, and 2) in obese African-American women, an insulin-lowering diet will improve loss of fat mass during weight loss and result in greater weight-loss maintenance, in part by increasing energy expenditure.

    James Hill

    Dr. Hill’s research focuses on factors that impact the etiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes and that contribute to strategies to reduce these diseases. He is particularly interested in factors that affect weight-loss maintenance. Recently, he has been working with researchers with interests in modifying health behaviors. Sustaining behavior change is a major challenge in addressing obesity. They recently developed a new model for behavior change (the Maintain IT model) and have successfully used this model to increase success in weight management. He understands the complexity of body weight regulation and has studied how physiological, behavioral, and environmental factors influence obesity and body weight regulation.

    Courtney Peterson

    Dr. Peterson studies new dietary strategies to treat and reverse diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Her primary focus is on intermittent fasting, the circadian clock, and diet quality. Dr. Peterson conducted the first human studies of a type of intermittent fasting called early time-restricted feeding (TRF), which involves eating in a 10-hour or less period early in the day. She found that early TRF improves blood sugar, blood pressure, appetite, and fat burning. Dr. Peterson’s lab is also testing whether eating certain food groups can help reverse type 2 diabetes and uses mathematical modeling to study metabolism and body composition.

    Drew Sayer

    Dr. Sayer currently studies the factors that contribute to the variability in behavioral weight-loss interventions and conducts clinical trials that include adaptive interventions (e.g., Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials or SMARTs) to develop, rigorously evaluate, and implement effective interventions to treat obesity. His past research has centered on the effects of the quantity and quality of dietary protein on energy balance, obesity, and cardiometabolic health. His predoctoral research focused primarily on the role of dietary protein on appetite, energy balance, and neural reward responses to visual food stimuli.

  • Ted Bertrand

    Dr. Bertrand’s research interests have focused on understanding cell fate and development in the immune system, cancers and fat depots. His laboratory is currently investigating how Notch-signaling participates in aspects of adipocyte development and fate depot regulation during weight loss and regain.

    Dr. Bertrand is a member of the UAB Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (NORC), Comprehensive Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, Bone and Autoimmunity Center (CAMBAC), and the Program for Immunology. He is also a UAB Faculty Fellow in Undergraduate Research, and a Center for Interprofessional Education and Simulation (CIPES) Scholar.

    Paula Chandler-Laney

    Dr. Chandler-Laney’s research focuses on elucidating the biobehavioral mechanisms that underlie the intergenerational transmission of obesity and comorbid metabolic diseases. Ongoing research studies focus on pregnancy and infancy as critical periods during which risk for obesity may be programmed. Her laboratory examines race disparities and lifestyle influences on weight gain and glucose concentrations during pregnancy and fetal outcomes. Studies in young children investigate the role of executive function in eating behavior and the role of eating behavior as a potential mediator between obesogenic conditions in the intrauterine environment and children’s excess weight gain. They use rigorous, objective methods to assess body composition (e.g., DXA, BodPod, PeaPod) and metabolic health (e.g., glucose tolerance tests) and observational methods to examine behavior and lifestyle variables.

    Maria De Luca

    Dr. De Luca’s early research work focused largely on the genetics of aging. Over the past 15 years, she has expanded her research program to examine the role of genetics in obesity and its metabolic complications. Many lines of evidence suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in obesity/metabolic complications and aging. To this end, one area of current research in her laboratory focuses on identifying novel genetic mechanisms contributing to mitochondrial dysfunction. A second area of research focuses on the role played by the cell-surface proteoglycan syndecan-4 in fat tissue remodeling, inflammation, and systemic metabolic dysfunction.

    Wendy Demark-Wahnefried

    Dr. Demark-Wahnefried’s research interests include diet/hormonal and genetic interactions and their association with neoplasia (specifically breast and prostate cancer); dietary intervention to prevent chronic disease factors affecting compliance and recidivism; and lifestyle modification among cancer survivors. Her research career has spanned basic science studies focused on determining mechanisms of action of food-related components on neoplastic progression to clinical research that involves nutrition-related concerns of cancer patients, as well as determining effective lifestyle interventions that improve the overall health of cancer survivors and their families. Her laboratory has conducted some of the largest studies exploring metabolic and body composition changes in response to cancer treatment. She has led and continues to lead a number of NIH-funded trials aimed at improving the diet and exercise behavior of cancer survivors.

    Barbara Gower

    Dr. Gower’s research focus is on the interplay between diet, endocrinology, and metabolism and their relation to chronic metabolic disease, with expertise in evaluation of body composition, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and beta-cell function. Her two major research areas are nutrition interventions for obesity and metabolic health and risk for type 2 diabetes in African-Americans. She currently is conducting two NIH-funded research studies to test the hypotheses that 1) in patients with type 2 diabetes, a low glycemic diet will enable return of beta-cell function by depleting pancreas lipid, even in the absence of weight loss, and 2) in obese African-American women, an insulin-lowering diet will improve loss of fat mass during weight loss and result in greater weight-loss maintenance, in part by increasing energy expenditure.

    James Hill

    Dr. Hill’s research focuses on factors that impact the etiology of obesity and type 2 diabetes and that contribute to strategies to reduce these diseases. He is particularly interested in factors that affect weight-loss maintenance. Recently, he has been working with researchers with interests in modifying health behaviors. Sustaining behavior change is a major challenge in addressing obesity. They recently developed a new model for behavior change (the Maintain IT model) and have successfully used this model to increase success in weight management. He understands the complexity of body weight regulation and has studied how physiological, behavioral, and environmental factors influence obesity and body weight regulation.

    Gary Hunter

    My current research interests include factors that influence the decision to be physically active and reduce weight gain. I have become especially interested in factors that influence ease and economy during locomotion, especially the use of muscle/tendon elasticity in producing stretch shortening cycle potentiation. Although, generally thought to be important only for athletic performance, we have shown that it influences free-living physical activity even in older adults and that exercise training can improve stretch shortening cycle potentiation. I am also interested in how to improve quality of life of older adults and cancer survivors.

    Tim Nagy

    Dr. Nagy’s current studies focus on animal models to better understand the mechanisms regulating energy expenditure and thus body weight. These studies include antipsychotic drug-induced weight gain, the role of uncoupling proteins, and the role of dairy in weight loss and bone health. Dr. Nagy is validating the use of a micro-computed tomography instrument for both hard and soft tissue. Another research interest is the link among body fat, caloric restriction, and cancer. Dr. Nagy has developed a mouse model in which energy intake can be held constant while body fat is modified by varying energy expenditure using ambient temperature. Thus multiple groups of mice, whose body fat are vastly different but food intake is the same, can be studied. This line of research will determine the independent effects of body fat on cancer.

    Lyse Norian

    Immune-based therapies have shown tremendous clinical potential for treating advanced cancers, but their clinical efficacy remains limited. Because obesity is a risk factor for increased cancer prevalence and mortality, it is critical to understand how obesity impacts anti-tumor immunity and immunotherapeutic efficacy. A major research focus in the Norian lab is investigating how immune responses to solid tumors are altered by obesity. Dr. Norian’s group has found that in mice and humans with renal tumors, obesity impairs protective anti-tumor immunity and decreases immunotherapeutic efficacy. As a complementary approach, they are determining whether dietary interventions can improve therapy-induced immune responses in multiple pre-clinical cancer models.

    Courtney Peterson

    Dr. Peterson studies new dietary strategies to treat and reverse diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Her primary focus is on intermittent fasting, the circadian clock, and diet quality. Dr. Peterson conducted the first human studies of a type of intermittent fasting called early time-restricted feeding (TRF), which involves eating in a 10-hour or less period early in the day. She found that early TRF improves blood sugar, blood pressure, appetite, and fat burning. Dr. Peterson’s lab is also testing whether eating certain food groups can help reverse type 2 diabetes and uses mathematical modeling to study metabolism and body composition.

    Drew Sayer

    Dr. Sayer currently studies the factors that contribute to the variability in behavioral weight-loss interventions and conducts clinical trials that include adaptive interventions (e.g., Sequential Multiple Assignment Randomized Trials or SMARTs) to develop, rigorously evaluate, and implement effective interventions to treat obesity. His past research has centered on the effects of the quantity and quality of dietary protein on energy balance, obesity, and cardiometabolic health. His predoctoral research focused primarily on the role of dietary protein on appetite, energy balance, and neural reward responses to visual food stimuli.

    Daniel Smith, Jr.

    Dr. Smith’s research interests include the influence of nutrition and metabolism on aging and disease, with an emphasis on the opposing nutrition paradigms of calorie restriction and over-nutrition/obesity. His studies incorporate multiple model organisms including budding yeast, worms, flies, zebrafish, mice, rats, and humans. Of particular interest are calorie restriction mimetics, compounds proposed to mimic the cellular and physiologic benefits of calorie restriction without requiring actual nutritional intake reductions. The cohesive thread through his research is to understand the impact and causation of nutrition and metabolism on aging and disease to identify interventions to optimize human health, well-being, and longevity.

  • Maria De Luca

    Dr. De Luca’s early research work focused largely on the genetics of aging. Over the past 15 years, she has expanded her research program to examine the role of genetics in obesity and its metabolic complications. Many lines of evidence suggest that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a central role in obesity/metabolic complications and aging. To this end, one area of current research in her laboratory focuses on identifying novel genetic mechanisms contributing to mitochondrial dysfunction. A second area of research focuses on the role played by the cell-surface proteoglycan syndecan-4 in fat tissue remodeling, inflammation, and systemic metabolic dysfunction.

    Barbara Gower

    Dr. Gower’s research focus is on the interplay between diet, endocrinology, and metabolism and their relation to chronic metabolic disease, with expertise in evaluation of body composition, body fat distribution, insulin sensitivity, and beta-cell function. Her two major research areas are nutrition interventions for obesity and metabolic health and risk for type 2 diabetes in African-Americans. She currently is conducting two NIH-funded research studies to test the hypotheses that 1) in patients with type 2 diabetes, a low glycemic diet will enable return of beta-cell function by depleting pancreas lipid, even in the absence of weight loss, and 2) in obese African-American women, an insulin-lowering diet will improve loss of fat mass during weight loss and result in greater weight-loss maintenance, in part by increasing energy expenditure.

    Doug Moellering

    Dr. Moellering’s research interests involve mitochondrial physiology, bioenergetics, and free radical-mediated tissue injury and disease pathologies. Currently, his research is focused on mitochondrial free-radical production contributing to altered bioenergetics, the development of obesity, insulin resistance and T2DM, increased cardiovascular disease susceptibility, and aging. Evidence has been accumulating that many diseases, including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, cancer, and obesity, involve mitochondrial dysfunction with concomitant increased reactive oxygen and/or nitrogen species formation.

    Daniel Smith, Jr.

    Dr. Smith’s research interests include the influence of nutrition and metabolism on aging and disease, with an emphasis on the opposing nutrition paradigms of calorie restriction and over-nutrition/obesity. His studies incorporate multiple model organisms including budding yeast, worms, flies, zebrafish, mice, rats, and humans. Of particular interest are calorie restriction mimetics, compounds proposed to mimic the cellular and physiologic benefits of calorie restriction without requiring actual nutritional intake reductions. The cohesive thread through his research is to understand the impact and causation of nutrition and metabolism on aging and disease to identify interventions to optimize human health, well-being, and longevity.